Our Anniversary Dinner

A pint of beer on a bar, White text on a black banner reads "Our Anniversary Dinner"

For once in my life, I was actually somewhat prepared. I knew that the event was coming up and so I’d taken steps so that on the night, I actually had something to get myself into. Perhaps it was finding my worth now (thankyou, Will), but I actually felt like and knew that I deserved new clothes and new shoes – I deserved a whole new look.

So I made it happen, and I looked forward to wearing it for my night.

“Which liquid lipstick should I get, Lippy or Royal?” I ask Matt. Both are reds: “Lippy” is more of a brick red, and “Royal” is almost maroon.

“Whichever one you like” he says.

“I like both” I conclude, “but Royal feels a bit… dark, and sumptuous, and velvety, and like… am I really royal enough to wear that?”. There are some women who would, and women who wouldn’t. I’ve always been more reserved.

So I opt for “Lippy”, though when I think about it, then lippy isn’t really me either. Perhaps I should have gone for Royal, after all.

On Friday I spoke to my mother on the phone. Matt and I were planning to get a taxi to the pub, as we normally would, but Mum offered us a lift and instead of declining and insisting that we’d make our own way, I graciously accepted it. I am learning to accept help again, though I cannot express how much it pains my self-sufficient ass sometimes to learn to rely on others.

I am getting my windows cleaned on Tuesday though, so she is learning.

“I have bought myself a new top for tomorrow, and it’s in a colour you just hate to see me in” I say with a grin. Mum doesn’t hate to see me in black, but she does wish I’d wear other colours sometimes as well. Matt got me into navy and floral prints, and sometimes I’ll stretch as far as a grey, turquoise or perhaps a khaki too. Bright colours and bold designs, though? Not on my nelly.

“It’s black, I know it’s black” she says. “Sometimes black looks good on you, though” she adds. I smile. This will be one those occasions.

My choice top for the evening is indeed black with a sweetheart neckline and black lace 3/4 sleeves with a waist tie. I set it off with black trousers, black faux leather pumps, a messy bun and a classy smokey brown eyeshadow with red lips. For my ears, I opt for the sapphire and diamond earrings Matt bought me.

I feel good.

“Your eyes look nice!” Mum says as I get into the car, she does a double take on me and I smile and thank her. Mum has long been envious of how I do my eye make-up – minimal with a volumizing mascara and a touch of bronze sparkle on the outer corners. Gotta make them peekers pop.

Arriving at the pub, everyone stands to greet us and hands us cards and gifts. I can’t deny that there is an immediate display of our power couple dynamic because Matt veers left to engage with one end of the table, and I right to engage with the other. We hardly speak throughout the night, apart from to discuss when to open cards and gifts. There’s no tension between us, though.

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Our server, Jack, is exceptional, and he reads the group to a tee. The landlord comes over and has a chat with me too, and I think he tries for a joke but it’s lost on me. It makes me question his level of professionalism a little too, I mean, you can be too friendly with your customers.

Over a first round of drinks I caught up with my friend, Jenny, who I haven’t seen in ever. Jenny is a friend I met through other friends, but she’s a wild spirit and I love her. She also predicted my relationship with Matt.

“You and Kay said we’d get together and now here we are. Fifteen years later, Jenny!” I say with a laugh.

“I wasn’t wrong then, was I?” she shoots back with a smile. Touché, my girl, touché.

Jenny and I talk work too, and she asks me what I write about. Instantly I stiffen. I like Jenny, sure, but what will she think of what I do? Also, now is not really the place to discuss such topics – there’s family around!

“I write relationship advice for disabled people” I say casually, talk about using broad strokes here.

It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I do, not by any means because I feel like these things should be talked about, it’s just that now is not the time or the place. I suppose that it also comes down to how people might perceive me, and what they might think of me if they knew what goes on behind closed doors. Truthfully then I don’t think most people would really care (at least for so long as I’m not being abused), but still. Nobody who has known a friend for several years wants to imagine them making the beast with two backs with their significant other.

Not unless you’re that way inclined, of course, or unless you and your partner are both women.

Mine was the beef burger, which came with chips but no side salad, so I ordered a salad to go with because I can get a little anxious without some sort of foliage on my plate. The salad was tasty, the burger too, with the red onion chutney and the smoked cheddar combo. They worked perfectly with the beef.

My mother gives Matt and I a chuckle when she orders the most basic food option – a Margherita pizza – but then complains that it doesn’t have anything much on it. Even Matt said that his Mexican pizza could have done with some more topping on it, but the parts that did were pretty tasty. The garlic bread too got a good write-up, as did Andy’s fish and chips.

Just three of us had ordered dessert for after, and typically once my cheesecake arrived then two others wanted a slice too. The cheesecake was okay, lightly chocolatey and topped with black grapes and raspberries for me. Everyone else had strawberries on theirs, which I’d previously let the staff know I’m allergic to.

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“Did the name of this place bear any significance for your choosing it?” Mum asks me.

“I can neither confirm nor deny” I say with a knowing smile. She laughs.

It wasn’t the sole reason, no, but the fact that the pub is called “The Beehive” and my father was a beekeeper? I can’t deny that it sort of made it a bit extra special for me.

Of course, it’s that – remembering my father – that sets off the tears. He should be there, and I wished he was there, but he’s not and that annoys me. It annoys me too because I told myself that I was going to have a nice night and not think about my loss, that we were done with grieving for this time, but then I failed at being “done” and so I get annoyed at me. I’m also undeniably envious: my mother celebrated eighteen years of her marriage with her father present, and me? Just five.

“He’s here anyway” I say reassuring the others, I tap my finger above my heart three times. My brother nods at the sentiment.

“Oh yeah, he is” he says.

The night has a practicing jazz band too, and though they were generally good, they did have their speakers turned far too high up. The drummer was good, the saxophone was on point, it was just hard to be able to talk without shouting at one another instead. At one point Mum asks Jack if she can move some tables to create a dancefloor, and Jack declines but tells her that if she gets up for dance, he’ll gladly join her. She needs no further encouragement.

Both Matt and I try to sink under the table.

My mother, Jenny and I step outside to check out the beer garden, leaving the men to their football talk. We weave through thr arched gate, over a small patio area and up some dark steps. At the top is several picnic benches and some patio heaters, we step aside and turn our attention to the night sky.

While we stargaze Jenny tells me that we could have seen the aurora borealis a few weeks ago, and I’m pissed because I’ve aalways wanted to see it. I’ve seen a Perseids shower several times now, but the aurora borealis? Nope.

“What’s that up there then, Helen?” Mum asks me, pointing out a bright white star. Without my phone on me then I can’t map these things, and I left my phone at the table, in Matt’s pocket.

“At a guess, I’d say possibly Venus” I say. Jenny confirms, given the time in the evening and the season, she thinks it’s Venus too. Apparently, any time my brother seas a bright white star in the night sky, he tells my mother it’s Polaris. A part of me melts. How adorable?

“It’s the space station” comes a voice behind me, and I swivel around to see a bald guy in a white polo shirt holding a pint of beer. He seems a little obnoxious.

“I thought the space station is in orbit?” I ask. Of my understanding then it orbits the Earth at a fair speed. Certainly fast enough for us to notice it, anyway.

“Nah, that’s the space station, innit?” he says again. I accept his conclusion, I feel like he might try and spark me out if I don’t. You can’t fix stupid, I conclude inwardly, especially when it’s drunk.

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